Progress on Iran

February 04, 2014 - 6:27:57 am
Relations between Iran and the West are showing further signs of improvement with a slew of developments in the past few days. Yesterday, Iran welcomed the most senior French trade delegation in years, telling them that a new chapter has begun in relations between Tehran and the Europe and French companies stood to benefit from the new opportunities coming up in an oil and gas-producing nation. The delegation included more than 100 executives from leading French companies and was the largest French group to visit Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Two days ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry told his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif that both sides needed to negotiate in good faith to resolve Western fears and doubts over Iran’s contested nuclear progamme. Kerry’s exhortation comes as world powers are scheduled to conduct another round of talks with Iran on February 18 to follow up on the initial agreement reached in November last year to curb uranium enrichment and open up nuclear facilities for international inspection. The February 18 talks are likely to make progress as the atmosphere is conducive and friendly. Both the West and Iran have realized that they stand benefit immensely from a thaw in relations. For Iran, it’s an immense opportunity to emerge from the international isolation it has pushed itself into, thereby putting the country on the path of economic progress it has long been denied, and for West, the business opportunities which Iran will offer are too huge to be ignored. At a time when the global economy is struggling to move forward and energy companies are struggling to get new projects, Iran offers a goldmine.

In another significant development, Hillary Clinton threw her weight behind President Barack Obama on his Iran policy. She said that Washington must give diplomacy a chance to succeed on Iran, while keeping all options on the table, adding that new sanctions could rob US of the diplomatic high ground “we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed, and in the long run, weaken pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course.” That Clinton has been able to take such a stance despite intense pressure from opponents this rapprochement shows there is a strong possibility that the current negotiations will succeed.

At the same time, Europe and US should not sleepwalk into a deal with Iran without making sure that their objectives are met. There is still a strong view that Iran is not serious about dismantling its nuclear infrastructure and statements from its top religious leadership have been supporting this view. There should be no compromise on forcing Iran to fully dismantle its nuclear facilities, which is vital for security in our region  and to prevent a nuclear arms race.